Click click, click click. The fingers belonging to the photographers assembled in the cramped line outside the event seemingly never left their cameras. Constant flashing captured the smiles of those who “look” like models. But when it was Ashley Elizabeth Gregory’s turn to pose, the effortless clicking quickly slowed down as if the professionals forgot their purpose was to photograph the women entering the event. All of the women.

Gregory has experienced a lot of situations like this as a non-traditional-sized model, the feeling of not being accepted. The Southie resident has been told that she isn’t runway material because of her body type, has been photoshopped by photographers, and was even assumed to be the makeup artist rather than the model at a shoot.

It’s been almost two years since the ending of a toxic relationship led Gregory to start taking photos of herself to regain confidence. And while modeling was never even “a blip on [her] radar,” she has since signed with Dynasty Models in Boston and has participated in New York Fashion Week, Miami Swim Week, Paris shoots and more.

“Now, my much broader purpose is to represent women of all sizes,” Gregory said regarding why she has stuck with modeling despite the challenges. “Confidence is not a size. Confidence is completely your mindset.”

While one might associate the word “fashion” with Milan rather than Boston, the latter is actually a huge hub of the commercial fashion world, which to Gregory, places a huge responsibility on the city to be more inclusive. After all, she isn’t the only one who wants to see mannequins in stores or models in ads that resemble her body type.

Although she sees it as somewhat of a move forward, a major fashion brand having one curvy model in their show is not solving the problem. Not even close.

Growing up in the America’s Next Top Model, Victoria’s Secret, Special K Diet era, she never saw modeling as an option, nor did she even want to be one. The young dancer wanted to be an architect and she currently works in finance.

But, now that she has found herself in the industry, Gregory sees it as her responsibility to share the behind-the-scenes for non-traditional models. And non-traditional can mean lots of things, whether it’s size, race, ethnicity or other aspects that diversify someone from the stereotypical blonde hair, blue eyes, size zero, 5 ’11 model – she joked at that last part as she only recently dyed her hair from being blonde.

Regardless of her hair color, she says:

“It’s even more important for someone like myself to represent anyone who has ever been made to feel less than because of their size or physical appearance,” Gregory said. “If I’m seeing it, I have to speak up about it. If I don’t, who will?”

One place where you can hear her voice her opinion? Her podcast Thicc & Tired, was produced by Dope Entertainment. It’s her platform where she talks all things body positivity, self-love and the self-confidence journey.

In each episode, she brings on a guest who sheds light on a different lens around those very themes. Friend breakups, dating and disordered eating, are also topics that are discussed. Be sure to follow the show on social media so you can prepare for the episodes every other Tuesday!

While she creates this comforting and inclusive content, she hopes that down the road, Boston can capitalize on the opportunity provided to be a really great example in the fashion world.

But until then, Gregory will keep commanding a presence each time she steps up to the plate, proving to herself and to everyone else that she belongs on the catwalk just as much as anyone else.

Click click.

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